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Browsing: Vītarāga-stotra with commentary (MS. Sansk. d. 317)

Image: Title page

Title: Title page

Source:
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
Shelfmark:
MS. Sansk. d. 317
Author:
Hemacandra
Date of creation:
1778
Folio number:
1 recto
Total number of folios:
24
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Sanskrit
Medium:
ink on paper
Size:
25 x 10 cm
Copyright:
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Background

The Vītarāga-stotraHymn to the One Released from Passion – is one of the works written by the famous scholar monk Hemacandra in the 12th century. There is no exact date for it, but at the end of the poem the author expresses the wish that it “may awaken King Kumārapāla”. It can thus be deduced that it was written before this king of Gujarat, who was a follower of Śaivism, converted to Jainism, partly under the influence of Hemacandra.

In 20 chapters, the Vītarāga-stotra is a work of sophisticated style written in Sanskrit. It is both a hymn of praise and a semi-philosophical work. Its main purpose is to define the nature of a Jina and to explain Jain tenets. In particular, the author likes to contrast the total serenity of a Jina, who is released from all kinds of attachment, with the agitation characterising Hindu gods.

Hemacandra’s poem is also a contribution to the debate about the image of a Jina. Some argue that it is contradictory to portray a liberated soul because it has escaped attachment to things of this world. Hemacandra stresses that the Jina image is a representation of perfection and beauty. It is the only image that deserves to be contemplated and meditated upon because it fills the observer with peace. This makes sense if it is considered that the poem’s dedicatee was a Hindu king, whose frame of mind Hemacandra was hoping to change drastically.

In this manuscript, each of Hemacandra’s verses is followed by an anonymous Sanskrit commentary. In the final colophon this commentary is called Āvacūri, a generic term referring to generally not very ambitious or high-level commentaries. Each of the 20 sections – called prakāśa – in the hymn ends with a colophon, highlighted with orange pigment in this Oxford manuscript.

Glossary

Dhyāna
Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
Jina
A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation . A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world , but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.
Kaṣāya
'Passion' that causes activity, which results in new karma binding to the soul. It must be eliminated by restraints or austerities so the soul can be liberated. Passion may be attraction – rāga – or aversion – dveṣa – and has degrees of intensity. There are traditionally four passions:
  • anger – krodha
  • pride – māna
  • deceit – māyā
  • greed – lobha.
Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā – 'soul-quest'.
Siddha
An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.
Hymn
The terms stavan, stavana, stava, stotra and stuti are all used for a prayer, song, chant or hymn to a Jina, a god or any other holy figure. Religious songs are always hymns of praise in Jainism. These devotional songs may be performed during daily rites or on special occasions, such as completion of a fast or a wedding. The hymns may be performed:
  • solo or in groups
  • as a form of meditation
  • as a rite offered as part of worship.
Vītarāga
'Free from passion'. An epithet for an arhat.
Deity
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
Hindu
Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.
Idol
An image of a deity or concept that is worshipped either as a god or as a representation of the deity.
Monk
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Sanskrit
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
Gujarāt
The westernmost state in India, which is a stronghold of Śvetāmbara Jainism.
Commentary
An essay explaining a text. Commentaries on the scriptures are common in the Jain tradition and there are various types, including the:
  • bālāvabodha
  • bhāṣya
  • cūrṇi
  • niryukti
  • ṭīkā.
Colophon
Found at the end of a Jain manuscript, a colophon is similar to the publication information at the beginning of modern books. It usually contains the title and sometimes details of the author, scribe and sponsor. The colophons of Jain manuscripts may also include the names of owners, readers and libraries where they have been stored. They frequently have decorative elements and very commonly contain a wish for good fortune for any readers. Written mainly by the scribes who copy texts, Jain colophons are often written in Sanskrit.
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